Jeremy Myerson - Collaborative Working

We’ve already looked at what Jeremy Myerson had to say at the first of our 2015 Thought Leadership events. Since the subject of his keynote speech, Evolution of the Workplace, was so in-depth, we decided to expand on one particular aspect a little further.

As co-founder and Director of Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, he is committed to encouraging an approach to office design that has a positive effect on the staff that use it.

How office design evolved

In his introduction, and in our previous Thought Leadership article, Jeremy highlighted the three significant shifts that office design has seen over the decades; from the regimented Taylorist Office to the communal and collegial Social Democratic Office, to the collaborative Networked Office with its wireless and mobile technology.

With this in mind, and in his role at the RCA, Jeremy wanted to look at how we could learn from the previous iterations of the office and create an office design that balanced management efficiency with individual wellbeing.

A welcoming workplace for a new demographic

We’ve already written about how we work closely with office furniture manufacturers Kinnarps, even visiting them in Sweden. Jeremy partnered with them on their Welcoming Workplace project to explore what should be considered when designing the workplaces of the future.

Welcoming Workplace - Collaborative WorkingThe first important factor to take into consideration is the fact that knowledge workers now drive the success of many modern organisations. Attracting and retaining these talented people is now a priority for most businesses.

Another vital point is the fact that by 2020, nearly half of the adults in the European Union will be aged 50+. Older workers will continue to be in the workplace beyond what we currently perceive as the normal retirement age.

The Welcoming Workplace project aimed to give a voice to this silent group of older workers who, up to now, hadn’t drawn much attention to themselves but would become an important demographic in the workplace.

The 3 Cs

More than 80 staff worldwide, in the offices of major companies in London, Yokohama and Melbourne took part in the study.

Welcoming Workplace research - Collaborative Working

As a result of their findings, the Welcoming Workplace project highlighted three types of space that could benefit the performance of knowledge workers, particularly those in the older demographic. An effective workplace should allow spaces for concentration, collaboration and contemplation.

Spaces to Concentrate

Concentrate - Collaborative Working

When knowledge workers have a task that requires a lot of focus, analysis and attention to detail, a solely open-plan office won’t give them the kind of privacy they need. An office design that includes separate rooms, booths or designated areas for solo working allows staff to get away from the noise and distraction of the general office when they have a particularly demanding task.

These concentration spaces should have different types of adjustable furniture that allow for a range of working positions. Make sure it has plenty of natural light with task lights on desks for lower ambient lighting. Panels, baffles and fabrics can mask distracting noise. New technology, such as intelligent audio-masking systems can monitor background noise and create harmonious sounds instead, similar to the pink noise that we mentioned in our 2015 office design trends article.

Spaces to Collaborate


While an open plan layout naturally allows for collaboration and chance encounters, offices sometimes lack project spaces where teams can work without having to worry about making a noise or mess. Rather than being anonymous like most meeting rooms this is an adaptable space, giving ownership to the team who are currently using it.

They should be well-equipped with everything you might need, from paper and pens to AV equipment. Bigger backdrops and writable walls will allow people to pin things up and jot down ideas, while moveable furniture and large desks give everyone plenty of room to spread out.

Spaces to Contemplate


Offices can be stressful noisy places and contemplation spaces give people somewhere to escape from the normal working environment. A calm, distraction-free place for staff to relax and create new ideas, it should have a different feel to the rest of the office.

However it’s designed, it should be quiet and enclosed with a comfortable domestic feel and a degree of privacy, almost a ‘home’ within the office. With long exposure to computer screens, it’s important to give people somewhere to rest their eyes. You may even use blocking technology so that it’s a Wi-Fi free zone.

While many businesses focus on office design that recognises the needs of the new generations that will be joining the workforce, it’s worth recognising that an older demographic of knowledge workers will make up a large portion of the workplace of the future. In light of this, businesses should consider the role of the 3 Cs; concentration, collaboration and contemplation, when it comes to their next office fit-out.

Written by Helen Bartlett, Design Manager

Images courtesy of Welcoming Workplace Project